In March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic changed everything. A year later, many of us are now grappling with the COVID 15, or the weight gained by Americans forced to live off of drive-thru and delivery as the pandemic shuttered dining rooms across the country. That’s why 2021 will be the year of the health food franchise.
Franchising holds up better than other business models during economic downturns, and the pandemic has been no exception. Of the 110,000 restaurants closed during the pandemic, franchises fared well, especially in the quick-service and pizza spaces. But as every functioning adult knows, eventually we must eat a green vegetable.
That’s why FranNet is predicting a surge in healthy food franchises and all that comes with them. When gyms reopen, expect them to look like the New Year’s resolution crowd on January 2nd again. When people make choices about what to eat, expect to see them turn to a salad.
The younger generation has placed a renewed focus on healthy, sustainable food. Also, the pandemic has forced us to consider our health and wellness like never before. Expect to see fast food restaurants and pizza concepts add on healthy options to hold onto their momentum, but those never quite work out as planned.
2021: The Year of the Underdog Franchise?
The problem with the salads on McDonald’s menu or veggie options on a Domino’s pizza is that nobody associates those brands with health foods. Instead, expect healthy food concepts like Freshii and Salata to take off. Over the pandemic, there was little restricting consumer’s access to McDonald’s or Dominos. When the pandemic ends, millions of people will figure it’s time to have a light salad with friends for lunch.
We all know there is a looming demand for healthy food and on-premise spaces to enjoy them. The question now is if businesses are best positioned to cash in on that coming wave.
To ride that coming wave, brands must embrace health-conscious terminology. Brands will affiliate themselves with a certain winning niche—maybe it’s gluten-free, low-carb or sustainable protein. Salad fast-casual concepts that can show you a Chipotle-style assembly line of workers putting together your salad from a sprawling mix of fresh vegetables will have all the credibility in this space. If a restaurant has healthy options that guests don’t know about, it’s time to modernize that messaging.
Additionally, in the franchise space, this moment marks an ideal time for smaller brands to take a front seat as big name franchises had their turn during the pandemic.
Meanwhile, quick-service brands that halfheartedly ventured into the health food or vegetable-heavy offerings may have shot themselves in the foot. All it takes is one slimy tomato on one Wendy’s burger for a consumer to decide that Wendy’s can’t do fresh produce. When the time comes for the consumer to pick a healthier option, they’ll surely look to brands that specialize in that space.
Brands like Nekter Juice Bar, Clean Eatz and Vitality Bowls, should be taking off with healthy vitality bowls and shakes.
In short, expect a generation of consumers molded by the pandemic to have high, demanding standards. The pandemic was great for convenience, and that’s here to stay. But now, customers will demand convenient, healthy food they can order and eat on or off premise, whenever and wherever they want.
Jania Bailey joined FranNet in August 2006 as President and COO while the company was transitioning to new ownership. In 2015, Jania assumed the role of CEO of FranNet. Under her leadership, she’s led the company through unprecedented growth and has established FranNet as the most respected voice in the franchise consultant industry in North America. Her background includes over 30 years of experience in the banking and franchise industries. Bailey served for 6 years on the Executive Board of Directors for the International Franchise Association (IFA) and is a certified franchise expert. She currently serves as Chairman of the IFA Membership Committee. Bailey also authored the book, “Thriving—The Journey to Success in the Business World” and co-authored the Amazon best-selling book, “More Than Just French Fries.”